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Nike target of Twitter storm after basketball star's shoe splits

Nike became a target of jokes when a star U.S. college basketball player sprained a knee midgame because one of his shoes split during play.

Duke University star Zion Williamson limped off the court after the mishap during the game against his school’s archrival University of North Carolina. Twitter lit up with jibes and jeers aimed at the No. 1 sports brand, pushing the keyword Zion to the top of the worldwide trending list as of Wednesday night; Duke followed and Nike came fourth.

Former President Barack Obama, courtside at the high-profile clash, was shown on video appearing to say with an incredulous look: “His shoe broke!”

“We are obviously concerned and want to wish Zion a speedy recovery,” Nike said by email. “While this is an isolated occurrence, we are working to identify the issue.”

Williamson grabbed the knee in pain after slipping awkwardly and falling when his left Nike shoe fell apart as he planted hard while dribbling near the free throw line. The blue rubber sole ripped loose from the white shoe from the heel to the toes along the outside edge, with Williamson’s foot coming all the way through the large gap.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski classified the injury as a mild sprain, but didn’t know how much time Williamson will miss.

A detailed view of the shoe worn by Zion Williamson #1 of the Duke Blue Devils against the North Carolina Tar Heels during their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on February 20, 2019 in Durham, North Carolina. Streeter Lecka / Getty Images

This isn’t the first time that Nike’s had problems with their basketball merchandise. After taking over as the official NBA uniform supplier in 2017, multiple stars including LeBron James had their jerseys rip.

Nike shares fell as much as 1.4 percent to $83.65 in premarket trading. The stock is up 27 percent in the past year, similar to the 28 percent rise of Puma and leading the 12 percent gain of Adidas.

Puma is an upstart in the basketball market, and one of its few NBA players, Terry Rozier of the Boston Celtics, took advantage of Nike’s stumble to urge others to join him.

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